Spartan Nation Pitt Panther football preview! Chris Russell breaks it all down.
In our efforts to bring you the most Spartan football coverage we bring you the Pitt Panther review.
By: Chris Russell Jr.Â
The Pittsburgh Panthers begin their second season under Coach Dave Wannstedt, where they hope to improve on their 5-6 record from the year before. With a favorable schedule that includes seven home games and one of the schools best recruiting classes hopes are high in Pittsburgh.Â
The offense is led by one of the nations top QBâ€™s in Tyler Palko. The offense still in itself has question marks and will rely heavily on the senior leadership of Palko. During the offseason Palko took on a leadership role throughout the winter and spring conditioning drills and looks poised to rebound from a disappointing Junior season. He should get some help from his offensive line that returns four starters lead by Senior John Simonitis at the right guard position. Pittsburgh does return itâ€™s leading rusher from last year LaRod Stephens-Howling, Howling rushed for 434 yards and no TDâ€™s for a unit that ranked 93rd nationally. As far as receivers go Palko doesnâ€™t have too many options to throw to. Derek Kinder is the leading receiver from last year. He caught 37 balls for 374 yards and should play a larger role in the offense. True freshman Dorin Dickerson should start and have an immediate impact.Â
The defense will be the strong point on this team and will have to carry much of the load until the offense can mature as a unit. The defense will be lead by two preseason all americans. H.B. Blades and Darrelle Revis. Revis will lead the Secondary which was 2nd in the Nation in pass defense at just 152 yards a game. H.B. Blades will be at middle linebacker where he led the Big East with 121 tackles last year. Four other players return to this LB unit that has played 10 games or more so the experience is there for this unit to one of the best in the Big East. The D-Line was hurt by injuries all of 2005 with just DE Chris McKillop Jr. starting all 11 games. The good news is this unit returns 6 of the top 8. After just 22 sacks a year ago this unit should improve.Â
This past off-season Pittsburgh hired a new special teams coordinator Charlie Partridge. He takes over a unit that had four touchdowns a year ago. The Panthers return their starting Punter Adam Graessle who averages 42.2 yards per kick last season. The bad news is Pitt ranked 108th nationally in net punting. As far as the placekicker position goes senior David Abdul is battling with sophomore Conor Lee for the starting duties. The Panthers will have two dangerous return men in Junior, Darrelle Revis who also handles the punt returning duties and Sophomore, LaRod Stephens-Howling. Although, coaches expect a few of the talented incoming freshman to compete for the starting job as well.Â
With so much focus on Pittsburghâ€™s youth this team will need to rely on Senior leadership on both sides of the ball. With seven home games and a favorable non-conference schedule I see Pittsburgh winning no less than eight games, with loses coming to the Big East powerhouses West Virginia and Louisville. Pittsburgh will host Michigan State in a nationally televised game on ABC and Heinz Field should be ready for the Spartans. I see the Spartans falling to the Pitt Panthers in a close game. I expect Tyler Palko to regain his old form from his Sophomore season where he lead his Panthers to a BCS gameÂ